How to Become a Fitness Trainer in Pennsylvania

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Pennsylvania values its personal trainers. In fact, numbers from the US Department of Labor show the greater Philadelphia urban area employs the fifth-highest number of personal trainers of all cities in the nation.

It’s likely that at some point in your career you will work in a fitness and health club like the Daily Grind in Philadelphia. This club offers in-studio personal and small group training instruction that builds endurance, muscle, and overall stamina. Whether you’ll be working in a health club or you plan to establish your own client base as an independent freelance trainer, you’ll often work with active clients looking for specialized routines designed to help them achieve peak performance in their favorite weekend activities:

  • Cycling along the Allegheny bike trails
  • Trekking along the 1,000 Steps Hiking Trail
  • Cross-country skiing in Bald Eagle State Park
  • Canoeing on the Kittatinny River
  • Mountain biking at Raystown Lake’s Allegrippis Trails
  • Hiking the Arrowhead Trail near McMurray
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As a personal trainer in Pennsylvania you will need to be versatile to work with clients from all types of backgrounds and ages. One day you might be training with a client to prepare for the Yuengling Oktoberfest 5k run/walk in Bethlehem, the next day you may be offering dietary advice to improve the energy and vitality of another client.

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry projects an 11 percent growth rate in the number of personal trainer jobs during the ten-year period leading up to 2022. Wherever you decide to work, it is important to have the right skills and qualifications to be competitive in your field.

Becoming a Qualified Personal Trainer in Pennsylvania

There are two things you can do to prepare to become a personal trainer with strong qualifications: Earn a degree and qualify for certification. Both of these qualifications are required by many of the state’s top employers.

Earning a Degree

Many of Pennsylvania’s advanced personal trainer jobs require a college degree. Certain professional certification agencies also require a college degree to meet eligibility requirements for certification.

Colleges and universities across Pennsylvania offer relevant degree programs that will help you develop a strong foundation of knowledge in your field. Many schools offer online options for students who want to maintain a daily work and exercise schedule. Examples of relevant degree options include:

  • AS degree in Dietetics – includes courses such as:
    • Organic and biological chemistry
    • Community nutrition
    • Fundamentals of nutrition
    • Medical nutritional therapy
  • AS degree in Exercise Science – with classes including:
    • Community and personal health
    • Exercise prescription and evaluation
    • Methods of personal training instruction
    • Exercise psychology
    • Physical education
  • BS in Kinesiology and Exercise Science – this degree incorporates classes like:
    • Socio-cultural dynamics of kinesiology
    • Muscle training techniques and programs
    • Principles of nutrition
    • Motor control and its neuro-biology
    • Physical activity and its psycho-social dimensions
  • BS in Sport, Physical Education, and Exercise Science – including courses such as:
    • Exercise anatomy and physiology
    • Aging and exercise prescription
    • Strength practicum
    • Aerobic leadership
    • Personal training

Professional Certification Agencies

Employers may also require you to have a nationally-recognized personal trainer certification, often specifying the particular certifying agencies they prefer. Some of the best recognized personal trainer certifications in Pennsylvania are offered through these organizations:

  • American Council of Exercise (ACE)
  • American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
  • International Sports Science Association (ISSA)
  • Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA)
  • National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
  • National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA)
  • National Federation of Personal Trainers (NFPT)
  • National Exercise Trainers Association (NETA)
  • International Fitness Association (IFA)
  • The Cooper Institute
  • Professional Personal Trainers Association (PROPTA)
  • National Personal Training Institute (NPTI)
  • Lifetime (LT) Academy

Each agency has its own eligibility requirements you must meet to qualify for certification.

What You Can Expect as a Personal Trainer in Pennsylvania

You will find that the skills you learn in college and through certification are directly relevant in your day-to-day activities with your clients. For example:

  • You can apply what you learn with a Dietetics degree to help a client eat right in the months leading up to the Presque Isle Triathlon in Erie.
  • You could coach your clients on the best workout regiment to prepare for the annual Pittsburgh Marathon using what you have learned for a degree in Exercise Science.
  • You can counsel your clients using the knowledge you have gained as part of a Sports and Physical Education degree to help them plan for a career with the Steelers or Eagles.

As you prepare for a successful career as a personal trainer you will find it helpful to know exactly what the state’s employers are looking for today. The following are actual job announcements surveyed from across the state in March of 2015. These are shown as examples of what you can expect when you begin searching Pennsylvania’s job market:

ACAC in Exton was looking to hire a personal trainer who at minimum had a professional certification. Preferred qualifications included a bachelor’s degree, prior related work experience, and prior sales experience.

A Maxx Fitness Clubzz in Allentown was advertising for a personal trainer with the preferred qualifications of a college degree in Human Performance or Exercise Science, as well as a certification from ACE, NASM, AFAA, or ISSA.

A local university in East Stroudsburg was hiring a personal trainer for its recreation center who was able to conduct fitness assessments, flexibility training, medicine ball training, equipment orientations, and body composition assessments.

Another local university in Philadelphia was searching for a personal trainer to work in its health sciences center. Candidate requirements included a nationally-recognized personal trainer certification or an equivalent combination of education and experience.

Bedford Springs Resort and Spa was searching for a personal trainer to conduct one-on-one services as well as to teach group exercise classes. Candidates were required to have a certification through ACE as well as at least two years of related experience.

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